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Dalziel: Liquor law changes announcement

Lianne Dalziel

6 August, 2008
Liquor law changes announcement

I am today announcing the introduction of the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill and a Law Commission Review of the Sale & Supply of Liquor.

I gave an address to ALAC at the beginning of April this year where I signalled my view that there ought to be a first principles review of the Act, which would provide an evidence based approach to addressing societal concerns, while ensuring that the regulatory framework is proportionate in its response to the nature of the risk the particular activities pose.

Nothing could please me more that such a reference has been accepted by the Law Commission and I will come back to that shortly.

In the same speech I expressed the view that progressing legislation in election year was not necessarily in the interests of good law – referencing of course the conscience vote. I made the point that as Minister of Commerce I was anxious about unnecessary regulatory burdens and compliance costs that are placed on businesses that contribute in a responsible way to our hospitality sector, one of the most important strands of our tourism industry. I was concerned that this would be overlooked if there were a pre-election free-for-all on liquor.

All of the issues included in the Bill I am introducing today have been subject to wide consultation and review, with the exception perhaps of the provisions that will give the communities a greater say over when, where and how liquor can be sold in their neighbourhoods and will give real teeth to local alcohol plans introduced by local government.

However these measures can be justified on the basis that local government legislation now has extensive consultation provisions that means that communities can have confidence that their voice will be heard in the development of these plans. Requiring Licensing Authorities to ‘give effect’ to such plans is an appropriate step to take to ensure that they are meaningfully applied. Local authorities have had to rely on voluntary agreements, which do not always meet the community’s expectation of what is reasonable. Giving effect to Local Alcohol plans will mean that provisions such as closing hours or ‘one-way door’ policies will become conditions of the licences in that area and will be fully enforceable.

Licensing authorities will also be given the power to take social impact into account when making licensing decisions.

In terms of the decisions previously taken by the government, the Bill includes:

* a zero alcohol limit for drivers under the age of 20 who don't hold a full licence;
* the repeal of the 'reasonable belief' defence for sale or supply of liquor to a minor; and
* a 'three strikes and you're out' provision for any liquor outlet manager prosecuted for supplying alcohol to minors.

Most people are surprised to learn that the supply to a minor offence requires proof that the liquor was purchased with the intention of supplying it to a minor. So an adult who plies a 14 year old with alcohol from the drinks cabinet is not committing an offence under the current law. The Bill will make it unlawful to supply alcohol to a minor, without the permission of the minor's parent or guardian. This is the closest we have come to a drinking age.

Supermarkets and Grocery stores have been allowed to sell wine since 1989 and beer since 1999. In 1999 Parliament specifically voted against dairies having the ability to sell wine and beer as well. This has been circumvented to a large extent by convenience stores and the like that are dairies by another name. The government has decided to address this by establishing a minimum size for a grocery store, which takes it out to the kind of store Parliament had in mind when the law was written in 1989. We are also ensuring that we don’t see an extension by stealth beyond wine and beer and the Bill prohibits 'store within a store' arrangements and immediately adjacent liquor stores that are part of the grocery-selling business.

As some businesses may find they do not comply with the new rules when applying for licence renewals, transitional arrangements have been included in the Bill that will give retailers three years to either meet the requirements or cease selling liquor.

I want to hand over to Damien O’Connor to address the issues relating to alcohol advertising and then I will address the Review and invite the President of the Law Commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, to comment on the process the Law Commission will adopt.


Finally the Review. I am simply going to say this. Because we have a conscience vote in Parliament on this most important piece of public policy I believe it is essential as I said at the outset that we have an evidence base for quality decisions. The terms of reference are broad and that is deliberate. I am delighted that the Law Commission has accepted the reference and am confident that their work will produce detailed recommendations that Parliament will be able to rely on.

Sir Geoffrey.


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